That wasn’t the case, and when a late caution extended things, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon had a decision to make. On the first overtime restart. Busch and Dillon lined up in different rows, Busch on the outside and Dillon on the inside. Then on the restart, Dillon would let Busch come down, and they could line up, while being pushed by fellow Chevrolet driver William Byron.
One person who felt that wasn’t a good idea was Denny Hamlin. Hamlin had the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, but he pointed out something he had learned earlier in the race.
Toward the end of Stage 2, Hamlin said he was in a line of Toyotas on the outside line. Just then, a line of Fords “freight-trained” the Toyotas. Hamlin called himself an “idiot” for not breaking off from the Toyotas to try and stop the Ford momentum.
While Hamlin praised Busch and Dillon for keeping the race organized before the caution came out, Hamlin experienced some déjà vu when he saw the first overtime restart. Hamlin revealed on his podcast, Actions Detrimental with Denny Hamlin, that while it’s great for teammates to work together, it’s best to split up and block both lines to give you a better chance of one of you winning.
In my opinion, if I fast forward, [that’s] where RCR f***ed up. They should have not have done that last lap restart in my opinion. Of course hindsight is always 20/20, it didn’t work out for them. It could have easily just worked out for them, but it didn’t. They, I think they should have [split up], because I said it earlier in the race, on my radio, block the racetrack. If you want to win, and we talked about this, having one of each car in each lane, because there is no third lane. So block both lanes and that, otherwise you put all your eggs in one basket, which they did on that green white checker, and say, ‘Alright, we’re just gonna put both of our cars down the bottom.’ Which they, if I had to get in their head, it was probably they had Byron behind them so they were probably thinking, ‘Well let’s get these three Chevys all aligned.’ Sometimes you just, at the end you gotta say, ‘Screw the numbers.’
Hindsight is 20/20, but in fairness, the NASCAR on Fox crew of Mike Joy, Clint Bowyer, and Tony Stewart immediately called out why RCR’s plan wasn’t a good idea. Bowyer was concerned that Byron would push Dillon too hard and mess up the plan. Though it ironically would’ve fit with Hamlin’s plan and may have gotten one of them the win. Stewart was concerned that Dillon slowing up the inside line to let Busch in would allow the outside line to get the advantage.
Bowyer’s and Stewart’s concerns wound up not coming to fruition, but Hamlin was spot on. With Busch coming down to join with Dillon, the top lane opened up for the tandem of Joey Logano and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Stenhouse pushed Logano to the lead, and then Stenhouse joined his Chevy partner Kyle Larson to rocket to the lead when the next caution hit. That wound up being the winning move as Stenhouse won his first Daytona 500 victory, with Logano in second. Busch finished 19th, and Dillon finished 33rd as the two were in late crashes. It just goes to show; at the Daytona 500, your fortunes can change in a split second.